Columbus High School senior Jamie Hamilton was called to the guidance office Wednesday afternoon. When she arrived, foundation president and chief executive officer Betsy Covington told her that she is the 2018 winner of the Jeanette Williamson Craig & Eugene L. Craig Scholarship.
Jamie exclaimed, “Oh, wow! Thank you!”
After the applause from the assembled officials subsided, Covington told her, “Take a moment and take a breath.”
The program awards the scholarship winner $5,000 per year for as many as four years of college, as long as the student maintains continuous full-time enrollment during the regular school year and at least a 2.5 grade-point average.
The Craig Scholarship was established in 2016 by the Craig family and is named for the wife and husband, both descendants of Columbus mill workers, who were the first in their families to earn a college degree. The scholarship is funded through an endowed fund honoring the Craigs’ combined 70 years of service in the Muscogee County School District before they retired in 1995.
Mrs. Craig was a teacher and media specialist for 25 years at elementary schools Davis, Double Churches and Northside, now called Allen. Mr. Craig taught at his alma mater, Jordan Vocational High School, and was the assistant principal of Reese Road Elementary, then led Waddell Elementary as principal for 29 years. He is a former member of the executive committee of the Muscogee County Principals Association and the Muscogee Educators Association and was president of the Muscogee County Retired Educators Association.
The winner of the Craig Scholarship, selected this year among 42 applicants, is someone with financial need, high character and average or above average scholastic merit, according to the foundation.
Jamie has a 4.2 grade-point average. She has participated for four years in science club and has been involved in the school’s literary magazine and Junior Civitan club. She is a member of the National Honor Society, National Beta Club, Science Honor Society, English Honor Society and Spanish Honor Society.
Outside of school, Jamie has been a competition dancer for the past four years and serves as a dance instructor. She volunteers with PAWS Humane and has volunteered with Girls Inc.
“We are so excited for you,” Covington told Jamie. “You are a fabulous choice. This committee is so excited to see what you’re going to do next.”
And the foundation will be available to help her in ways beyond the scholarship, such as recommendations or just a safe place to hang out, Covington said.
“Anything that you need, you let us know,” she told Jamie. “We feel like we work for you, and our job is to make your college career as successful as it can be.”
Mike Craig represented the Craig family as he told Jamie through a choked-up voice, “You persevered through a lot, and you are very humble, and you’re exactly the kind of student that my mom and dad would want to wake up every day and go teach. Thank you.”
Jamie, 18, told the Ledger-Enquirer she wants to keep private the specifics of her perseverance, but she did say that she has lived with her grandparents since she was 3, along with her two sisters.
“I feel that my family background isn’t as normal as everyone else’s would be, and I have had to work through hardships that not everyone would be faced with as a child,” she said. “... My father’s never been in my life, and seeing my mother kind of come in and out and not being involved as my grandparents are, it’s made it difficult for me, seeing my friends having their mother in their life.”
Jamie plans to major in psychology at the University of Georgia. She hopes to be a drug counselor.
“I want to help people that have that addiction, for them to understand why they have that addiction and why they choose to lead that life,” she said.
Although she will receive a Zell Miller Scholarship, which covers tuition at state institutions, the Craig Scholarship will help her pay for other expenses related to attending college away from home.
“My family, not all of them have college educations,” she said. “This will give me the opportunity that they didn’t (have). I came from a family that just isn’t as well off as others.”
Understanding the Craig family’s dedication to education, Jamie said, “It means a lot for them to donate their money and not just keep it for themselves and everything. I love that they’re giving the opportunity for everyone else to further their education.”
Andrew Cho, also of Columbus High, was the inaugural recipient of the scholarship last year. He is “doing well” at Johns Hopkins University, Covington said.
How to apply or donate
For information about applying for this or any other scholarship the Community Foundation of the Chattahoochee Valley awards, or to make a donation or establish a fund, call 706-320-0027.